June 18, 2016
Source: Paulick Report

Winchell Thoroughbreds, Besilu Stables and Three Chimneys Farm’s Gun Runner was the dominant, 5 1/4-length winner of Saturday evening’s Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs. The sophomore son of Candy Ride covered 1 1/16 miles in a new stakes record time, stopping the clock at 1:41.12 (Successful Dan holds the course record at 1:41.04). The victory gives trainer Steve Asmussen a record-equaling fourth win in the race, tying with Bob Baffert.

“Visually, looking at him I think that the horse has matured,” said Asmussen. “He’s stronger than he was. He was beautiful in the gates and went away smoothly. I thought he handled nicely and he’s got beautiful speed. His confidence should be exactly where we’re hoping for going into an extremely competitive Haskell it looks like. I do think that he is of the highest quality and this is only his seventh lifetime race. He is faster now than he has ever been and that’s a great thing.”

Gun Runner broke sharply under Florent Geroux, immediately headed by Virtual Machine along the inside. A subtle shake of the reins had Gun Runner jumping out to a one-length lead, where he relaxed to cover a first quarter in :23.99.

“When I broke I was hoping that somebody went but when nobody went,” said Santana. “I had to start going. I couldn’t like try to take him back or something crazy. I just had to put him whenever he is the most comfortable.”

Virtual Machine and Gray Sky held together in second position for the early going, but when Gun Runner picked up the paced to cover a half-mile in :47.73, Virtual Machine dropped back to third alongside Texas Chrome, leaving Gray Sky alone in second position just 1 1/2 lengths off the front-running Gun Runner.

Nearing the head of the lane, Gray Sky put a challenge to Gun Runner, coming within a half-length of the lead. Gun Runner simply dropped his head and repelled the challenge, drawing away down the lane. He changed back to his left lead late, but it didn’t matter as he crossed under the wire 5 1/4 lengths in front of the nearest contender. Gray Sky held on to finish second, and Texas Chrome was up for third.

“Just happy to get him back going after the Derby,” said co-owner Ron Winchell. “So, looking forward to the Haskell.”

Bred in Kentucky by Besilu Stables, Gun Runner was most recently third in this year’s running of the Kentucky Derby, behind Nyquist and Exaggerator. His career record stands at five wins from seven career starts, with earnings of over $1.16 million.

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